1 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
(a) Paul. The author of the first letter to the Corinthians was the Apostle Paul. The name Paulus or Paul means little, which is an apt name for someone who understood that God chooses the least, the last, and the weakest to display his glory (1 Cor. 1:27). Paul had visited Corinth for a period of eighteen months and planted a church during that time (Acts 18:1). After he left Corinth, he stayed in contact by sending several letters, two of which made it into the Bible. Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote the letter we know as First Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:8), and it was probably written around A.D. 55.
(b) An apostle. An apostle is someone “sent out” as a messenger for God. Originally the word was applied to the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus (Matt. 10:2). But in the early church, others came to be recognized as apostles (e.g., Andronicus and Junias; Rom. 16:7). In a sense, we are all called to be God’s messengers or ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). But in the church, some are uniquely gifted and called to be apostles (1 Cor. 12:28-29). Paul was a stellar example of an apostle and displayed all the signs of an authentic apostle, namely signs and wonders and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12).
(c) By the will of God. What made Paul an apostle? He was called by God (Acts 13:2).
(d) Sosthenes had been the leader of the synagogue in Corinth when Paul arrived in the city. Since he was beaten by the Jews (or Greek converts to Judaism; Acts 18:17), it appears that he had come to believe Paul’s message and become a Christian. Evidently Sosthenes was with Paul when he wrote this letter, hence the greeting.
1 Corinthians 1:2
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
(a) The church. The original word (ekklēsia) means an assembly of people. In the New Testament, it normally refers to a church, but not always (e.g., Acts 19:32).
(b) To those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. The Corinthians are infamous as the most misbehaving bunch of Christians in the Bible. They were fractious (1 Cor. 11:18), susceptible to other gospels (2 Cor. 11:4), stingy (2 Cor. 11:8) and they tolerated sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5:1). They got drunk at communion (1 Cor. 11:21), they didn’t respect Paul’s apostolic authority (2 Cor. 10:10, 13:3) and they thought women should be silent in church (1 Cor 14:34). Before Paul addresses their misdeeds, he reminds them of their identity in Christ. “You have been sanctified in Christ.” One with the Lord, you are as holy and righteous as Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30).
(c) Sanctified in Christ Jesus. Sanctification is one of the many blessings that we enjoy as a result of being in union with the Lord. See entry for Philemon 1:6.
(d) Saints by calling. Throughout the New Testament, the Christians are consistently referred to as saints (e.g., Rom. 1:7, 15:25, 2 Cor. 1:1, Eph. 1:1, Php. 1:1, Col. 1:2, Phm. 1:5, Heb. 13:24). We are called to be saints because we are saints. We have been sanctified in Christ. You don’t become holy by acting holy. Jesus makes you holy. Your part is to mature into what he has already made you.
Further reading: “If we’re holy, why does God call us to be holy?”
(d) Call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. By definition, a Christian or saint is anyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21, Rom. 10:13).
1 Corinthians 1:3
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace to you and peace. The apostle of grace begins all of his letters with this gracious salutation. The grace or unmerited favor of God lay at the heart of everything Paul wrote, but it deserves special mention here on account of the Corinthians’ bad behavior.
Some have asked whether we should give grace to Christians when they are doing well, but if they sin, hammer them with the law. Paul answers that question here. The Corinthians were sinning and Paul responds by reminding them of their true identity (“you have been sanctified in Christ”) and by calling them to live from that identity. He will address their errors in due course, but everything he says is bracketed by the grace and peace that comes from God (see 1 Cor. 16:23).
1 Corinthians 1:4
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,
(a) The grace of God. God is love and love that stoops is called grace. Grace is what the unconditional love of God looks like from our side. Grace is love come down. See entry for Grace of God.
(b) In Christ Jesus: The kindness and grace of God are revealed to us and come to us through his Son (John 1:14, 17, Eph. 2:7, 2 Tim. 1:9).
If you want to know what the grace of God looks like, see Jesus. That’s where God’s grace is found (2 Tim. 2:1). Jesus is the revelation of the One who sits on the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Grace is not a doctrine or teaching, and grace is not God’s lubricant for greasing the cogs of self effort. Grace is a Person living his life through you. Living under grace is the adventure of life shared with Christ.
Further reading: “Is grace a person?”
1 Corinthians 1:5
that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge,
Enriched in Him. One with the Lord, we enjoy his abundant life and all the blessings of heaven. “In union with Christ you have become rich in all things…” (1 Cor. 1:5, GNB). See entry for Philemon 1:6.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9
who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(a) Confirm you to the end. The God who called you into fellowship with his son will confirm or keep you strong to the end and blameless.
It is a grave mistake to think we must do things to maintain or confirm our salvation. It is Christ who sustains us (Rom. 11:18, Eph. 5:29), sanctifies us entirely (1 Th. 5:23) and keeps us from stumbling (Jude 1:24). We can be confident that he will complete the good work he began in us (Php. 1:6) and bring us safely to his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18).
(b) God is faithful. You do not stand on your faithfulness to God, but on his faithfulness to you. He who called you is always faithful, “reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to his promise, and he can be depended on” (to quote the Amplified Bible). Faithful is he who calls you (1 Th. 5:24).
There are more than 130 scriptures guaranteeing the eternal security of the believer, and this is one of the best.
Further reading: “The top 12 promises on eternal security”
(c) Called into fellowship with His Son. God’s desire is for us to be in fellowship or union with him and actively participate in the shared life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21). Life is meant to be lived from our union with the Lord (John 17:3).
The original word for fellowship (koinonia) means more than a mere relationship. It describes the spiritual or mystical union that all believers share with Christ. It is the common union of a vine and its branches (John 15:5) and the joining of spirits (1 Cor. 6:17).
Our fellowship is with the Son, but it is also with God the Father (Eph. 2:18, 1 John 1:2-3, 2:15), God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14, Php. 2:1, 1 John 4:13). It is also with the church or the body of Christ (1 John 1:7). Koinonia-fellowship is about living fully out of our connection with Christ and his body with our hearts “knit together in love” (Col. 2:2).
1 Corinthians 1:10
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Brethren. In the New Testament, the word brethren typically refers to Christian brothers and sisters (see entry for Heb. 2:11).
1 Corinthians 1:11
For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.
We don’t know anything about Chloe other than she lived in Corinth and she had people. Who were these people? They were most likely a church that met in her house. In the same way that “men from James” came to Antioch (Gal. 2:12), people from Chloe came to Paul, and he recognized her as a leader within the church community. In short, she was a pastor.
If Paul objected to women pastors, the visit from Chloe’s people would’ve presented him with the opportunity to say so. Of course, Paul said no such thing because Paul had no problem with women in leadership. Instead of rebuking Chloe’s people for putting a woman in charge, he credited them for drawing his attention to a problem.
Further reading: “Women pastors in the Bible”
1 Corinthians 1:14
I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
I baptized none of you. Although the early church baptized new believers in droves (Acts 2:41, 10:47), in Paul’s mind water baptism remained secondary to preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17). His attitude confirms that we are saved by grace alone, not grace plus water baptism.
1 Corinthians 1:15
so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.
Baptized; see entry for Baptism.
1 Corinthians 1:17
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
(a) Baptize. Although water baptism has special significance in the life of a believer, it is always subsidiary to the larger goal of preaching the gospel.
(b) The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for what Paul referred to as “my gospel” or the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.
1 Corinthians 1:21
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Save those who believe. All of God’s blessings, including forgiveness, salvation, righteousness and sanctification, come to us freely by grace and are received by faith. Faith does not compel God to forgive us or sanctify us. But faith is the conduit through which grace flows. See entry for Faith.
1 Corinthians 1:30
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
(a) By His doing. Once upon a time, you were apart from the Lord and lacking the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9, 1 Cor. 2:14-15). But the moment you responded in faith to the gospel, you were placed in Christ by the Holy Spirit. “God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30, GNB).
(b) You are in Christ Jesus. One with the Lord, you are as righteous and holy as he is.
All of God’s blessings are experienced in union with Christ Jesus. We are alive to God and have eternal life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11, 23). The grace and kindness of God are found in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:4, Eph. 2:7) and his forgiveness is found in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:32). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), we are justified in Christ (Gal. 2:17), and our salvation is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:10). Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39). We have freedom and are sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 2:4). We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). The peace, faith and love of God are found in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:7, 1 Tim. 1:14). In Christ we are brand new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), and we are complete in Christ (Col. 1:28). All the glory goes to God because it is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30). See entry for Union.
(c) Wisdom from God. Jesus is God’s best idea, his perfect and complete remedy for all that ails us.
You need righteousness? See Jesus who is our righteousness from God. You need sanctification? See Jesus who is our sanctification from God. You need redemption? See Jesus who is our redemption from God. Truly God supplies all our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:19).
(d) Sanctification. To be sanctified is to be made holy or whole and in Christ you are completely complete (Col. 2:10). Jesus is the Holy One (Mark 8:38), and “if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Rom. 11:16). Christians are holy branches connected to the Holy Vine. See entry for Holiness.
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- 1 Corinthians 1:1
- 1 Corinthians 1:2
- 1 Corinthians 1:3
- 1 Corinthians 1:4
- 1 Corinthians 1:5
- 1 Corinthians 1:8-9
- 1 Corinthians 1:10
- 1 Corinthians 1:11
- 1 Corinthians 1:14
- 1 Corinthians 1:15
- 1 Corinthians 1:17
- 1 Corinthians 1:21
- 1 Corinthians 1:30